cat·​fish | \ ˈkat-ˌfish How to pronounce catfish (audio) \

Definition of catfish

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : any of an order (Siluriformes) of chiefly freshwater stout-bodied scaleless bony fishes having long tactile barbels
2 : a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes


catfished; catfishing; catfishes

Definition of catfish (Entry 2 of 2)

1 intransitive : to fish for catfish … Bob was catfishing off a floating Ohio River dock near Eight Mile Road east of Cincinnati one early summer evening …Kentucky Happy Hunting Ground
2 transitive : to deceive (someone) by creating a false personal profile online "They never actually met. She was an online thing. They'd been talking for over a year. We were all pretty sure she was catfishing him, but he was convinced she was legit and that they were in love."— R. L. Naquin "Heather" stopped messaging me abruptly several months after we started talking. She was a grown woman, and I never lied about how young I was. Even so, I've never been quite sure which one of us was being catfished.— Vanessa Vitiello Uruhart — see also catfish entry 1 sense 2

Illustration of catfish

Illustration of catfish


catfish 1

In the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from catfish


catfishing noun
… this novel is timely due to recent high-profile examples of "catfishing"—where an individual creates a false online identity, often with deceptive or malicious romantic goals. — Ryan F. Paulsen

Did You Know?

For centuries, a catfish was merely a type of fish with a distinctive face. Then, in 2010, Ariel Schulman released Catfish, a documentary about his brother Nev's experiences with a woman who pretended to be someone else online. (The movie was popular enough to spawn a television show by the same title.) In the documentary, the woman's husband explained the title with an anecdote about how fishermen transporting live cod used to put catfish in with the cod on long-haul shipments to keep the desirable cod active and alert until arrival. The man implied that his wife was like those catfish, keeping the lives of others fresh and interesting.

Examples of catfish in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Lunch centers on meat-and-vegetable plates, including Southern fried catfish and Greek-style chicken. Eric Velasco, al, "Where are Birmingham’s oldest restaurants?," 12 Mar. 2020 Most common species are catfish, walleye, bass, crappie and bluegill. Joseph Albanese, Outdoor Life, "13 of the Best Public Lands Near Big Cities," 9 Mar. 2020 Somehow, this revelation comes down to a cliffhanger and a catfish. Ariana Romero,, "The Circle Pulled Off Its Most Dramatic Catfish Cliffhanger Yet," 10 Jan. 2020 Today, Japan’s earthquake early warning system uses a catfish as its logo. National Geographic, "These imaginary beasts fueled nightmares around the world," 30 Oct. 2019 The Sandusky River in Fremont has been a bit high and muddy, but a few catfish are being caught. D'arcy Egan,, "Lake Erie walleye parade not slowed by mayfly hatch, hot weather: July 12 Fishing Report," 12 July 2019 Those fishing from shore generally go after catfish, sunfish and carp. Roger Naylor, azcentral, "Lake Pleasant is a desert oasis near Phoenix. Here's everything you can do there," 4 Mar. 2020 The others — from families as diverse as catfish, elephant fish and spiny eels — are found in the shallower waters along the riverbanks. Asher Elbein, New York Times, "Earth’s Deepest River Conceals an Evolutionary Mystery," 25 Feb. 2020 The truck serves dishes like catfish, codfish plates, chicken tenders and fish tacos with simple sides like fries and coleslaw. Dahlia Ghabour, The Courier-Journal, "This Southern-style food truck is putting down roots at restaurant in Highview," 31 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'catfish.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of catfish


1612, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1871, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about catfish

Time Traveler for catfish

Time Traveler

The first known use of catfish was in 1612

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about catfish

Statistics for catfish

Last Updated

28 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Catfish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Apr. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for catfish


How to pronounce catfish (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of catfish

: a type of fish that has a large head and long thin parts that look like a cat's whiskers around its mouth


cat·​fish | \ ˈkat-ˌfish How to pronounce catfish (audio) \

Kids Definition of catfish

: a fish with a large head and feelers about the mouth

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on catfish

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with catfish

Spanish Central: Translation of catfish

Nglish: Translation of catfish for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about catfish

Comments on catfish

What made you want to look up catfish? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!